Being ‘Malayali Da’

Malayali rapper Vishnu MS, who goes by the stage name Thirumali

Malayali rapper Vishnu MS, who goes by the stage name Thirumali  

Malayalam rapper Thirumali talks about his art, his fans and what inspires him

The number of viewers on Thirumali’s YouTube page has crossed one million. The Malayalam rapper Vishnu MS from Kottayam, whose YouTube subscriber base has touched a lakh, says fame didn’t happen overnight. He started rapping seven years ago, but it is only recently that Malayalam rap has been getting the attention it deserves. Today, his inbox is flush with fan mail. “I am enjoying the attention, as I have worked hard towards it,” he says.

His track ‘Avastha’, released in 2019, is a tongue-in-cheek, angsty take on our lives and times. The 25-year-old audio engineer says he wrote the track as a student few years ago. When he took to rapping, one of his chief obsessions during his late teens, Vishnu did it in English. “I was hugely inspired by Lil Wayne, Eminem, Kendrick Lamar and Drake and I was trying to imitate what they did. But then it struck me: Why not rap in Malayalam? It is a language in which I can express myself the best. It comes naturally to me and my lyrics felt original.”

Vishnu’s ‘Malayali Da’, released in 2018, which dwells on the “state of being Malayali” hit the right notes among his fans. This was followed by the Ozhappan Anthem (the could be translated the loafer’s anthem), Kottayam Duke and the latest Blue Bucket Rebirth in 2020, an ode to the ‘neela bucket’ ditty that was a rage among the youth in the early 2000s. “We don’t really know who made the actual song, but it was hugely popular and it was just a few lines on how a blue bucket goes missing. In our song, we bring the bucket back,” says Vishnu.

Thirumali in a still from the album ‘Blue Bucket Rebirth’

Thirumali in a still from the album ‘Blue Bucket Rebirth’  

Rappers always have cool stage names and Vishnu picked Thirumali, derived from the expression kalla thirumali, which roughly translated, means rogue.

Rap as an art form is yet to be fully understood and explored, feels Vishnu. “It is musicality, poetry and social commentary all rolled into one.” His works are usually a spin off on events or situations that touched him in some way. Ever since Ranveer Singh’s Gully Boy was released, rapping has caught on in South India as well. “What I like best about rapping is that it doesn’t have to follow rules. It is a flow … of thought, feeling and emotion. It is straight from the soul.”

It is also a great way to explore the nuances of a language, says Vishnu. “In my initial days, I used to write out lyrics as they occurred to me and practice them; I used to scour the dictionary to find synonyms and words that rhymed. Now, however, it comes to me automatically by sheer practice.” His lexicon is one that appeals to the younger crowd, including ingenious expressions and terms that would resonate with them, Vishnu likes to experiment with pure language too.

He has done over 12 college shows, a big number for a rap act, and has collaborated with other artists too. The animated video and music programming for ‘Avastha’ was done by Amal Antony. For the ‘Blue Bucket Rebirth’, he has collaborated with Thudwiser.

A couple of films are on the horizon as well. Vishnu has done a bit for a song in Anoop Sathyan’s Varane Avashyamundu and Shaheen Siddique-starrer Oru Kadanathadan Katha. He hopes to work for more films in Malayalam.

“Until then, I will continue to do what I do best — rap,” he signs off.

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Printable version | Apr 10, 2020 4:57:26 PM |

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